Nearly 15 years after the idea was first conceived, Santa Maria is moving forward with plans to build a much-needed new landfill on the Los Flores Ranch property just south of the city.
The new facility is expected to be open around 2025 when the Utilities Department plans to decommission the current landfill, which is close to reaching capacity after more than 50 years of use.
On Sept. 17, the city issued a request for proposal to find a consultant to begin preparing detailed designs for the facility and to help guide the project through the permitting process.
The city will accept proposals from interested consultants for the next seven weeks and city officials plan on awarding a contract sometime in 2020.
Over the next five years, the city plans to work through the permitting process and construct a facility to serve as the new home for the roughly 130,000 tons of solid waste collected at the Santa Maria Regional Landfill each year.
“It’s really a pretty aggressive schedule we’re anticipating but we believe we’ll be able to meet it,” Utilities Department Director Shad Springer said. “We do have some other options if it takes a little longer at Los Flores to utilize this site a little longer but it's not as cost effective.”
While city officials once thought the existing landfill would reach capacity before 2020, the city has made its landfill operation more efficient, which has extended the life of the facility.
The city has altered its compacting practices to better use the landfill's existing space and in 2009, began diverting green waste to Engle & Gray’s composting facility, Springer said. In total, 96,000 tons of recycling and green waste is diverted from the landfill each year.
At the current rate of 130,000 tons of waste per year, the new Los Flores facility should be able to accept refuse for at least 90 years, Springer said.
"There's a potential that lifespan would continue as new items are put up for recycling or if law changes on single-use plastic or packaging," he said. "All of those affect us in the end — people throw it away and we bury it. There's certainly a lot of discussion right now about the recycling market and single-use packaging and more interest in people about how they consume products. If that consumption changes significantly, it could affect how much trash we collect."
The Utilities Department has anticipated what it expects the cost of design services to be but Springer said he preferred not to give a number out to avoid consultants targeting their bids and proposals.
The engineering and construction costs will be funded by the city’s solid waste enterprise fund.
Planning for a new municipal landfill for Santa Maria goes back nearly two decades.
In 2005, after several years of reviewing potential sites, a multi-city task force charged with planning for the solid waste issues in Santa Barbara County endorsed the use of the Los Flores Ranch property for a new municipal landfill.
The next year, the City Council signed off on the purchase of the Los Flores property for roughly $2.5 million. The land, which borders the Cat Canyon oil fields, was previously owned by Chevron.
Just over one-third of Los Flores Ranch’s 1,778 acres will be used for landfill operations; waste will be disposed on 255 acres and the rest will be used for an administrative office, scale house, parking, access roads and other supporting facilities.
Aside from the landfill, Los Flores Ranch will be home to a shooting range for the Santa Maria Police Department.
Springer said there are no plans to repurpose any of the existing landfill site except for an array of solar panels along the property’s far western edge as part of the Pacific Gas & Electric energy efficiency program the City Council voted to move forward with earlier this year.
While the majority of Utilities Department staff will move to the Los Flores facility upon its opening, the current landfill will need ongoing monitoring as it will continue to produce methane for decades.
Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @razisyed
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